Later On

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Archive for July 14th, 2021

Tennessee is worse even than I thought

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Heather Cox Richardson writes:

Yesterday, news broke that, under pressure from Republican leaders, Republican-dominated Tennessee will no longer conduct vaccine outreach for minors. Only 38% of people in Tennessee are vaccinated, and yet the state Department of Health will no longer reach out to urge minors to get vaccinated.

This change affects not only vaccines for the coronavirus, but also all other routine vaccines. On Monday, Tennessee’s Chief Medical Officer Dr. Tim Jones sent an email to staff saying there should be “no proactive outreach regarding routine vaccines” and “no outreach whatsoever regarding the HPV vaccine.” The HPV vaccine protects against a common sexually transmitted infection that causes cervical cancer, among other cancers.

Staff were also told not to do any “pre-planning” for flu shots events at schools. Any information released about back-to-school vaccinations should come from the Tennessee Department of Education, not the Tennessee Department of Health, Jones wrote.

On Monday, Dr. Michelle Fiscus, Tennessee’s former top vaccine official, was fired without explanation, and Republicans have talked about getting rid of the Department of Health altogether, saying it has been undermining parents by going around them and straight to teens to promote vaccines.

Video editor J.M. Rieger of the Washington Post put together a series of videos of Republicans boosting the vaccine and thanking former president Donald Trump for it only to show the same people now spreading disinformation, calling vaccines one of the greatest scandals in our history, and even comparing vaccines to the horrors of the Nazis.

This begs the question: Why?

Former FBI special agent, lawyer, and professor Asha Rangappa put this question to Twitter. “Seriously: What is the [Republicans’] endgame in trying to convince their own voters not to get the vaccine?” The most insightful answer, I thought, was that the Republican’s best hope for winning in 2022—aside from voter suppression—is to keep the culture wars hot, even if it means causing illness and death.

The Republican Party continues to move to the right. During his time in office, the former president put his supporters into office at the level of the state parties, a move that is paying off as they purge from their midst those unwilling to follow Trump. Today, in Michigan, the Republican Party chair who had criticized Trump, Jason Cabel Roe, resigned.

Candidates who have thrown their hat into the ring for the 2022 midterm elections are trying to get attention by being more and more extreme. They vow to take on the establishment, support Trump and God, and strike terror into the “Liberals” who are bringing socialism to America. Forty QAnon supporters are running for Congress, 38 as Republicans, 2 as Independents.

And yet, there are cracks in this Republican rush to Trumpism.

Yesterday, on the Fox News Channel, House minority leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) admitted that “Joe Biden is the president of the United States. He legitimately got elected.” Trump supporters immediately attacked McCarthy, but the minority leader is only too aware that the House Select Committee on the Capitol Insurrection will start hearing witnesses on July 27, and the spotlight on that event is highly unlikely to make the former president—and possibly some of the Republican lawmakers—look good.

Already, the books coming out about the former administration have been scathing, but tonight news broke of new revelations in a forthcoming book by Pulitzer Prize–winning Washington Post reporters Carol Leonnig and Philip Rucker. Leonnig and Rucker interviewed more than 140 members of the former administration and say that Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Mark A. Milley was increasingly upset as he listened to Trump lie about having won the election, believing Trump was looking for an excuse to invoke the Insurrection Act and call out the military.

Milley compared the former president’s language to that of Hitler and was so worried Trump was going to seize power that Milley began to strategize with other military leaders to keep him from using the military in illegal ways, especially after Trump put his allies at the head of the Pentagon. “They may try, but they’re not going to f—ing succeed,” he allegedly said.

In addition to damaging stories coming out about the former president, news broke yesterday that Fitch Ratings, a credit rating company, is considering downgrading the AAA rating of the United States government bonds. The problem is not the economy. In fact, the Fitch Ratings report praises the economy, saying it “has recovered much more rapidly than expected, helped by policy stimulus and the roll-out of the vaccination program, which has allowed economic reopening…. [T]he scale and speed of the policy response [is] a positive reflection on the macroeconomic policy framework. Real economic output has overtaken its pre-pandemic level and is on track to exceed pre-pandemic projections….”

Although the report worries about the growing debt, we also learned yesterday that the deficit for June dropped a whopping 80% from the deficit a year ago, as tax receipts recover along with the economy. Year-to-date, the annual deficit is down 18% from last year.

The problem, the report says, is . . .

Continue reading. The US is in crisis. The infection is the GOP.

Tennessee’s actions worse than ever

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From the Tennesseean a report that makes me believe that society will not avoid the collapse predicted as a possibility in the previous post:

Editor’s note: On Monday, July 12, the Tennessee Department of Health fired Dr. Michelle Fiscus, the top vaccine official in the Tennessee state government. Fiscus said she was scapegoated to appease Republican state lawmakers who are angry about efforts to vaccinate teenagers. After losing her job, Fiscus released a 1,200-word statement about the ordeal. Below is her statement in its entirety.

Today I became the 25th of 64 state and territorial immunization program directors to leave their position during this pandemic. That’s nearly 40% of us. And along with our resignations or retirements or, as in my case, push from office, goes the institutional knowledge and leadership of our respective COVID-19 vaccine responses.  I will not sit quietly by while our public health infrastructure is eroded in the midst of a pandemic.

We are a group of dedicated public health professionals who have worked endless hours to make COVID-19 vaccines, the ONE tool we have to effectively end the scourge of the COVID-19 pandemic, available to every person in our jurisdictions.  Along the way we have been disparaged, demeaned, accused, and sometimes vilified by a public who chooses not to believe in science, and elected and appointed officials who have put their own self-interest above the people they were chosen to represent and protect.

[COVID-19 VACCINES:Tennessee fires top vaccine official as COVID-19 shows signs of new spread]

On May 6, 2021, in advance of the approval of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine for 12-15 year olds and in response to multiple questions I had received regarding the rules around vaccinating minors, I reached out to Tennessee Department of Health’s general counsel to request a statement regarding Tennessee’s Mature Minor Doctrine that resulted from a Tennessee Supreme Court Ruling in Cardwell v Bechtol in 1987.

In response, I received a document attached to an email stating, “Sure—Attached is the new summary of the doctrine that has just recently been posted to the website and is blessed by the Governor’s office on the subject. This is forward facing so feel free to distribute to anyone.”

On May 10, 2021, I copied and pasted the language provided to me into a memo that was distributed only to providers who were administering COVID-19 vaccines. A recipient of that memo was upset that, according to Tennessee Supreme Court case law, minors ages 14-17 years are able to receive medical care in Tennessee without parental consent and posted the memo to social media. Within days, legislators were contacting TDH asking questions about the memo with some interpreting it as an attempt to undermine parental authority.

Let me be clear: this was an informational memo containing language approved by the TDH Office of General Counsel which was sent to medical providers by the medical director of the state’s immunization program regarding the guardrails set 34 years ago by the Tennessee Supreme Court around providing care to minors.

What has occurred in the time between the release of this memo and today, when I was terminated from my position as medical director of the vaccine-preventable diseases and immunization program at the Tennessee Department of Health, can only be described as bizarre.

On May 19th, TDH was asked to appear before the Government Operations Committee due to the concern that the memo was “a bit of a prodding or encouraging to vaccinate children without parental consent.” This was followed by a series of requests from members of the Committee for data around the impact of COVID-19 on children and a request to appear before the Committee again on June 16.

It was at that June 16th meeting that the Department was accused of “targeting” youth through Facebook messaging and its actions were described as “reprehensible” by one Committee member. That member went on to call for the “dissolving and reconstitution” of the Department of Health in the midst of a pandemic where one out of every 542 Tennesseans has died from COVID-19 on their watch and less than 38% of Tennesseans have been vaccinated.

It is the mission of the Tennessee Department of Health to “protect, promote and improve the health and prosperity of the people of Tennessee” and protecting them against the deadliest infectious disease event in more than 100 years IS our job. It’s the most important job we’ve had in recent history. Specifically, it was MY job to provide evidence-based education and vaccine access so that Tennesseans could protect themselves against COVID-19. I have now been terminated for doing exactly that.

Each of us should be waking up every morning with one question on our minds: “What can I do to protect the people of Tennessee against COVID-19?” Instead, our leaders are putting barriers in place to ensure the people of Tennessee remain at-risk, even with the delta variant bearing down upon us.

What’s more is that the leadership of the Tennessee Department of Health has reacted to the sabre rattling from the Government Operations Committee by halting ALL vaccination outreach for children. Not just COVID-19 vaccine outreach for teens, but ALL communications around vaccines of any kind. No back-to-school messaging to the more than 30,000 parents who did not get their children measles vaccines last year due to the pandemic.  No messaging around human papilloma virus vaccine to the residents of the state with one of the highest HPV cancer rates in the country. No observation of National Immunization Awareness Month in August. No reminders to the parents of teens who are late in receiving their second COVID-19 vaccine. THIS is a failure of public health to protect the people of Tennessee and THAT is what is “reprehensible”. When the people elected and appointed to lead this state put their political gains ahead of the public good, they have betrayed the people who have trusted them with their lives.

[COVID-19 VACCINES:GOP lawmakers accuse state health chief of ‘peer pressuring’ kids]

I was told that I should have been more “politically aware” and that I “poked the bear” when I sent a memo to medical providers clarifying a 34 year old Tennessee Supreme Court ruling. I am not a political operative, I am a physician who was, until today, charged with protecting the people of Tennessee, including its children, against preventable diseases like COVID-19.

I have been terminated for doing my job because some of our politicians have bought into the anti-vaccine misinformation campaign rather than taking the time to speak with the medical experts. They believe what they choose to believe rather than what is factual and evidence-based. And it is the people of Tennessee who will suffer the consequences of the actions of the very people they put into power.

The public health professionals at the Tennessee Department of Health have worked themselves to exhaustion to protect Tennesseans from this virus. They are heroes. They have prevented suffering and saved countless lives. They are to be honored and commended, not cursed and vilified. And the “leaders” of this state who have put their heads in the sand and denied the existence of COVID-19 or who thought they knew better than the scientists who have spent their lives working to prevent disease… who have ignored the dead and dying surrounding them — even when their own colleagues have fought for their lives — they are what is “reprehensible.”

I am ashamed of them. I am afraid for my state. I am angry for the amazing people of the Tennessee Department of Health who have been mistreated by an uneducated public and leaders who have only their own interests in mind. And I am deeply saddened for the people of Tennessee, who will continue to become sick and die from this vaccine-preventable disease because they choose to listen to the nonsense spread by ignorant people.

At this point,  . . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

14 July 2021 at 3:34 pm

MIT Predicted in 1972 That Society Will Collapse This Century. New Research Shows We’re on Schedule.

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Nafeez Ahmed reports in Vice Motherboard:

A remarkable new study by a director at one of the largest accounting firms in the world has found that a famous, decades-old warning from MIT about the risk of industrial civilization collapsing appears to be accurate based on new empirical data. 

As the world looks forward to a rebound in economic growth following the devastation wrought by the pandemic, the research raises urgent questions about the risks of attempting to simply return to the pre-pandemic ‘normal.’

In 1972, a team of MIT scientists got together to study the risks of civilizational collapse. Their system dynamics model published by the Club of Rome identified impending ‘limits to growth’ (LtG) that meant industrial civilization was on track to collapse sometime within the 21st century, due to overexploitation of planetary resources.

The controversial MIT analysis generated heated debate, and was widely derided at the time by pundits who misrepresented its findings and methods. But the analysis has now received stunning vindication from a study written by a senior director at professional services giant KPMG, one of the ‘Big Four’ accounting firms as measured by global revenue.

Limits to growth

The study was published in the Yale Journal of Industrial Ecology in November 2020 and is available on the KPMG website. It concludes that the current business-as-usual trajectory of global civilization is heading toward the terminal decline of economic growth within the coming decade—and at worst, could trigger societal collapse by around 2040.

The study represents the first time a top analyst working within a mainstream global corporate entity has taken the ‘limits to growth’ model seriously. Its author, Gaya Herrington, is Sustainability and Dynamic System Analysis Lead at KPMG in the United States. However, she decided to undertake the research as a personal project to understand how well the MIT model stood the test of time. 

The study itself is not affiliated or conducted on behalf of KPMG, and does not necessarily reflect the views of KPMG. Herrington performed the research as an extension of her Masters thesis at Harvard University in her capacity as an advisor to the Club of Rome. However, she is quoted explaining her project on the KPMG website as follows: 

“Given the unappealing prospect of collapse, I was curious to see which scenarios were aligning most closely with empirical data today. After all, the book that featured this world model was a bestseller in the 70s, and by now we’d have several decades of empirical data which would make a comparison meaningful. But to my surprise I could not find recent attempts for this. So I decided to do it myself.”

Titled ‘Update to limits to growth: Comparing the World3 model with empirical data’, the study attempts to assess how MIT’s ‘World3’ model stacks up against new empirical data. Previous studies that attempted to do this found that the model’s worst-case scenarios accurately reflected real-world developments. However, the last study of this nature was completed in 2014. 

The risk of collapse 

Herrington’s new analysis examines data across 10 key variables, namely population, fertility rates, mortality rates, industrial output, food production, services, non-renewable resources, persistent pollution, human welfare, and ecological footprint. She found that the latest data most closely aligns with two particular scenarios, ‘BAU2’ (business-as-usual) and ‘CT’ (comprehensive technology). 

“BAU2 and CT scenarios show a halt in growth within a decade or so from now,” the study concludes. “Both scenarios thus indicate that continuing business as usual, that is, pursuing continuous growth, is not possible. Even when paired with unprecedented technological development and adoption, business as usual as modelled by LtG would inevitably lead to declines in industrial capital, agricultural output, and welfare levels within this century.”

Study author Gaya Herrington told Motherboard that in the MIT World3 models, collapse “does not mean that humanity will cease to exist,” but rather that “economic and industrial growth will stop, and then decline, which will hurt food production and standards of living… In terms of timing, the BAU2 scenario shows a steep decline to set in around 2040.”

The end of growth? 

In the comprehensive technology (CT) scenario, economic decline still sets in around this date with a range of possible negative consequences, but this does not lead to societal collapse.

Unfortunately, the scenario which was the least closest fit to the latest empirical data happens to be the most optimistic pathway known as ‘SW’ (stabilized world), in which civilization follows a sustainable path and experiences the smallest declines in economic growth—based on a combination of technological innovation and widespread investment in public health and education.

Although both the business-as-usual and comprehensive technology scenarios point to the coming end of economic growth in around 10 years, only the BAU2 scenario “shows a clear collapse pattern, whereas CT suggests the possibility of future declines being relatively soft landings, at least for humanity in general.” 

Both scenarios currently “seem to align quite closely not just with observed data,” Herrington concludes in her study, indicating that the future is open.   

A window of opportunity 

While focusing on the pursuit of continued economic growth for its own sake will be futile, the study finds that technological progress and increased investments in public services could not just avoid the risk of collapse, but lead to a new stable and prosperous civilization operating safely within planetary boundaries. But we really have only the next decade to change course. 

“At this point therefore, the data most aligns with the CT and BAU2 scenarios which indicate a slowdown and eventual halt in growth within the next decade or so, but World3 leaves open whether the subsequent decline will constitute a collapse,” the study concludes. Although the ‘stabilized world’ scenario “tracks least closely, a deliberate trajectory change brought about by society turning toward another goal than growth is still possible. The LtG work implies that this window of opportunity is closing fast.” 

In a presentation at the World Economic Forum in 2020 delivered in her capacity as a KPMG director, Herrington argued for ‘agrowth’—an agnostic approach to growth which focuses on other economic goals and priorities.  

“Changing our societal priorities hardly needs to be a capitulation to grim necessity,” she said. “Human activity can be regenerative and our productive capacities can be transformed. In fact, we are seeing examples of that happening right now. Expanding those efforts now creates a world full of opportunity that is also sustainable.” 

She noted how the rapid development and deployment of vaccines at unprecedented rates in response to the COVID-19 pandemic demonstrates that we are capable of responding rapidly and constructively to global challenges if we choose to act. We need exactly such a determined approach to the environmental crisis. . .

Continue reading.


Written by Leisureguy

14 July 2021 at 2:32 pm

The FBI tolerates corruption within its ranks

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Devlin Barrett reports in the Washington Post:

The FBI failed to properly investigate sex-abuse allegations against Larry Nassar, the former doctor for USA Gymnastics and Michigan State University, according to a scathing report by the Justice Department’s Inspector General, who also determined FBI officials gave misleading or false answers when confronted about those failures.

Despite “the extraordinarily serious nature of the allegations and the possibility that Nassar’s conduct could be continuing, senior officials in the FBI Indianapolis Field Office failed to respond to the Nassar allegations with the utmost seriousness and urgency that they deserved and required, made numerous and fundamental errors when they did respond to them, and violated multiple FBI policies,” concludes the report issued Wednesday by Inspector General Michael Horowitz.

The report says that when confronted with the shortcomings in their handling of the case, such as failure to interview alleged victims, FBI officials in Indianapolis sought to blame others.

FBI officials said they accepted the report’s findings and were making changes to bureau policies to better handle reports of abuse involving children.

“The actions and inactions of the FBI employees described in the Report are inexcusable and a discredit to this organization and the values we hold dear,” Assistant Director Douglas Leff said in a written response to the report. “At the FBI, we consider our mission to protect and serve the American people to be the highest responsibility. The conduct and facts in the Report are appalling, and we appreciate your continued efforts to examine it and recommend further improvements and safeguards.”

[Read the full report on Larry Nassar probe from the FBI inspector general]

The inspector general also found that while the Indianapolis FBI office was dealing with the Nassar allegations in late 2015, the head of that office, Jay Abbott, talked to Stephen Penny, then-president of USA Gymnastics, about getting Abbott a job with the Olympic Committee.

Abbott, who retired from the FBI in 2018, applied for the Olympics job but did not get it, the report said.

Rachel Denhollander, the first woman to publicly accuse Nassar of abuse, said the FBI’s failures led Nassar to victimize more girls.

“Had the FBI done their job I never would have been put in the position of having to relinquish every shred of privacy to stop the abuse and coverup,” Denhollander tweeted. “The dozens of little girls abused after the FBI knew who Larry was and exactly what he was doing, could have and should have been saved. They deserve answers.”

Lawmakers were also quick to condemn the FBI’s handling of the case.

“It’s clear that there were catastrophic failures at multiple levels of law enforcement, including federal agents who should’ve taken action and willfully neglected to do so,” said Sen. John Cornyn (R-Tex.). “This dereliction of duty is reprehensible, and those responsible must be held accountable … My hope is that they can now continue the healing process and those who failed them face a reckoning for letting a violent, abusive monster harm so many young women.”

The internal review of the FBI’s handling of allegations against Nassar was launched in 2018, after Nassar was sentenced to decades in prison on state charges.

Nassar is serving an effective life sentence that includes a 60-year term for federal child pornography crimes and a 40- to 175-year sentence for assaulting nine girls and women in Michigan.

He has been accused by more than 330 girls and women, including Olympians Aly Raisman, McKayla Maroney and Simone Biles — of sexual abuse, often committed under the guise of medical treatment.

Nassar’s victims have long complained that a host of institutions, including the FBI and U.S. gymnastics organizations, failed to pursue allegations against Nassar when they first surfaced. . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

14 July 2021 at 1:39 pm

This is what billionaire “justice” looks like

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Patrick Radden Keefe, author of Empire of Pain: The Secret History of the Sackler Dynasty, writes in the NY Times:

In 2016, a small-time drug dealer in Leesburg, Va., named Darnell Washington sold a customer a batch of what he thought was heroin. It turned out to be fentanyl. The customer shared it with a friend, and the friend died from an overdose.

To combat the opioid crisis, prosecutors have begun treating overdose deaths not as accidents but as crimes, using tough statutes to charge the dealers who sold the drugs. Washington had never met the person who overdosed. But, facing a mandatory minimum prison sentence of 20 years for “distribution resulting in death,” he pleaded guilty to the lesser charge of distribution and is now serving a 15-year sentence in federal prison.

I thought about this the other day when it became clear that members of the billionaire Sackler family will most likely soon receive a sweeping grant of immunity from all litigation relating to their role in helping to precipitate the opioid crisis. Through their control of Purdue Pharma, the families of Raymond and Mortimer Sackler made a vast fortune selling OxyContin, a powerful prescription opioid painkiller that, like fentanyl, is a chemical cousin of heroin.

Though they are widely reviled for profiting from a public health crisis that has resulted in the death of half a million Americans, they have used their money and influence to play our system like a harp. It is hardly news that our society treats people like Darnell Washington with sledgehammer vengeance, and people like the Sacklers with velvet gloves.

But it’s worth asking: How did they pull this off?

For a long time, the families of Raymond and Mortimer Sackler simply evaded scrutiny, pruning their public image so that people knew about the philanthropic contributions like the Sackler Library at Oxford, but not about the source of their wealth. After the press started writing stories, in 2001, about how OxyContin had given rise to a wave of addiction, high-price spin doctors labored to keep the Sackler name out of the controversy.

As the death toll associated with OxyContin grew, Purdue continued to argue in its marketing campaign that the drug was rarely addictive. When journalists raised tough questions, the company sent its lawyers to intervene with their editors.

This “can I see your manager” approach works even with law enforcement. In 2006, federal prosecutors in Virginia were preparing to charge Purdue with felonies. They focused on three senior lieutenants who worked for the company, expecting them to flip on the Sacklers — the ultimate target, according to the lead prosecutor — when faced with potential prison time. But Purdue had enlisted two former U.S. attorneys, Rudy Giuliani and Mary Jo White. Ms. White telephoned Paul McNulty, who was then the deputy attorney general: “It’s Mary Jo White,” Mr. McNulty recalled recently. “It’s somebody who thought of herself as having access.”

The Justice Department informed the federal prosecutors in Virginia that they could not charge the executives with felonies, robbing them of their most significant point of leverage: the threat of jail. The executives did not cooperate with efforts to implicate the Sacklers; instead, they pleaded guilty to misdemeanors while maintaining that they had done nothing wrong. The company pleaded guilty to felony “misbranding” and paid a $600 million fine.

You would not be alone in detecting a whiff of La Cosa Nostra. In an expert report filed in a recent lawsuit, John C. Coffee Jr., who directs the Center on Corporate Governance at Columbia Law School, concluded that “there is little to distinguish the control the Sacklers exercised over Purdue from the control that the Godfather held over his Mafia family.” After the executives took the fall, the Sacklers voted to pay one of them $3 million. Another got $5 million. Impunity will cost you. According to court documents, a single law firm billed Purdue more than $50 million for the case.

Yet the Sacklers were unchastened. Last year, Purdue pleaded guilty to a new set of felony charges related to the marketing of OxyContin. Once again, none of the Sacklers were charged criminally; instead, they agreed to pay a relatively meager $225 million to settle a civil investigation, without any admission of wrongdoing. Astonishingly, prosecutors appear to have settled with the Sacklers without ever bothering to interview them. Asked in a deposition whether any of the Sacklers had “direct contact with the D.O.J. in connection with the investigation,” David Sackler, who served on Purdue’s board from 2012 to August 2018, replied, “I do not believe that any of them have.”

This time, no individual executives were charged even with misdemeanors. Instead, the Justice Department informed the prosecutors on the case that they wanted to deal with Purdue quickly. In October, administration officials announced that Purdue had reached an $8 billion settlement with the government. This sounded impressive — except that the company didn’t have $8 billion, because by then it had filed for bankruptcy.

How could a corporation with a product that has generated an estimated $35 billion in revenue end up filing for bankruptcy? One answer is that by the time Purdue filed for Chapter 11, in 2019, it was being sued by practically every state in the country and thousands of other claimants. But there is another, more relevant explanation.

By 2007, the Sacklers seems to have realized, as David Sackler noted, that eventually one lawsuit might “get through to the family.” They started pulling money out of Purdue and securing it in their own accounts, many of them overseas. According to an audit report, between 2008 and 2017 they took out over $10 billion. (Family members have said the transfers were proper.) Then, in 2019, with Purdue engulfed by lawsuits, the company sought protection in bankruptcy court.

It is difficult to overstate the fiendish brilliance of this move. Now, the company would be shielded from all those lawsuits while restructuring its debts. Of course, at this point some of the lawsuits had indeed broken through: More than two dozen states had filed suit against individual Sackler board members. But the Sacklers and Purdue now requested that the bankruptcy judge freeze any lawsuits against family members — even though the family had not declared bankruptcy.

American corporations can pick the jurisdiction where they file for bankruptcy and, thus, often the judge who determines their fate. Even though Purdue has never had any real business presence in White Plains, N.Y., that is where it filed its bankruptcy case. Purdue has maintained that this choice was driven by proximity to the company’s headquarters in Stamford, Conn. But it may also have been relevant that only one federal bankruptcy judge presides in White Plains — Robert Drain. In the past, Judge Drain had indicated a willingness to shield from litigation certain parties who had not even filed for bankruptcy in his court. He promptly granted the request, temporarily protecting the Sacklers from those suits.

Judge Drain is known for prizing deal making and efficiency and has tried to seal off the proceedings from the messy imperatives of justice and accountability. As an army of lawyers haggled over the carcass of Purdue, the Sacklers advocated a “global resolution,” a single, sweeping deal that would address all of the claims against the company and the family. Their offer: $4.5 billion, with no admission of wrongdoing by the family and permanent immunity from any future civil liability related to the opioid crisis.

That may seem like a lot of money, but billionaire math can be deceptive. The Sacklers proposed to pay the $4.5 billion out over nine years. Their current fortune is estimated to be at least $11 billion. Conservatively, with interest and investments, this means they can expect a 5 percent annualized rate of return on that fortune. If that’s the case, they’ll be able to pay the fine without even touching their principal. When they’re done paying in 2030, they will probably be richer than they are today.

For months, a coalition of “nonconsenting” states held out for a better deal. But Judge Drain indicated that he was inclined to permanently enjoin the states from pursuing their cases against the Sacklers. This would be essential, the judge observed, to achieve “true peace.”

On July 7, with their leverage diminishing, 15 of the nonconsenting states indicated that they would sign off on the Sacklers’ proposed deal. At a news conference, New York’s attorney general, Letitia James, said, “The battle is not over.” But clearly, it is. The company will be wound down. The Sacklers will be barred from the opioid business. They will admit no wrongdoing. They — along with their scores of lawyers, consultants and public relations advisers — will be granted permanent immunity. (In principle, they could still be criminally prosecuted, but this seems unlikely; through their representatives, members of the family have maintained that they acted “ethically and legally.”)

There is one small consolation. . .

Continue reading. There’s more, and no paywall on this article.

Written by Leisureguy

14 July 2021 at 1:27 pm

Keeping People Out of Jail [for minor crimes] Keeps People Out of Jail [by curtailing major crimes]

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David Byrne (of Talking Heads fame, and also founder of the site) writes in Reasons to Be Cheerful:

Both sides of the political fence in the U.S. agree that mass incarceration isn’t working. It is expensive, discriminatory and has serious societal consequences. Crime has, in general, been trending down for decades (even in 2020, despite public perception) while prisons just keep filling up.

Credit: NYU Brennan Center

 The partisans may disagree on the best way to lower the prison population, but the good news is they agree it has to happen. The present system is unsustainable.

One way of reducing mass incarceration is to simply start ignoring certain laws. Some 80 percent of cases filed nationally are for misdemeanors. These are the types of crimes that are often victimless, but that can mess up the life of the person prosecuted for them. A few places have addressed this in the most straightforward way possible: by not automatically prosecuting these crimes. What has happened as a result? Studies have shown that these places reduced their prison populations without putting the public at risk. Crime did not go up. In fact, in many cases, it went down. And, surprisingly, often not just for misdemeanors. 

A seemingly radical idea

The consequences not just for the individual but for society and the economy begin well before someone is actually incarcerated. Simply being prosecuted, having a record, becomes a disadvantage for life. It can make it harder to get a jobto vote, to get a loan for an education or a mortgage for a home. Minor nonviolent infractions can leave one disadvantaged forever. They can effectively ruin a life. 

Rachael Rollins, the district attorney of Suffolk County, which includes Boston, was well aware of this when she did something that seemed radical upon being elected in 2018. The county stopped automatically prosecuting people for small crimes: minor drug possession, shoplifting, disorderly conduct and other nonviolent offenses. A study released a year later showed that this change prevented a large number of folks who were charged with these offenses from being funneled into the criminal justice system. But it also had a broader effect: violent offenses in Suffolk County went down by 64 percent, and even traffic offenses decreased by 63 percent. 

Why would declining to prosecute people for low-level crimes also reduce other types of crimes? The study, by the National Bureau of Economic Research, found that the key is keeping folks out of the criminal justice system. Doing so reduced the odds by 58 percent that these folks would engage with that system in the future. So, to be clear, this doesn’t suddenly empty out the prisons — it’s not retroactive — but it dramatically slows the flow of folks being incarcerated, which, in turn, reduces the chances that those people will commit future crimes. As the presently incarcerated end their sentences and leave, there won’t be the same flow of new prisoners coming in to replace them. It seems to me this is incredibly good news — both sides of the political divide should be happy.

I decided to call up the three authors of this study to see what they felt were the implications of their research on this policy. It turns out they were as pleasantly surprised by the results as I was. 

The authors of the study are Amanda Agan (Rutgers University), Anna Harvey (New York University) and Jennifer Doleac (Texas A&M University).

DB: Can you summarize your results for our readers?

AA: Our study found that, at least for certain defendants [mostly first time offenders], non-prosecution — not moving forward with charging an individual defendant — actually reduces the probability that that individual ends up back in the criminal justice system, and so reduces recidivism and reduces future criminal justice contact. 

We wanted to study this because there’s a potential tension: if we’re going to choose to not prosecute somebody, is this going to embolden them to go on to commit more crimes? Or is it going to kind of put them on a better path and allow them that second chance to potentially reduce their criminal justice involvement?  And we’ve found it’s the latter, that this is reducing recidivism in the future.

DB: What presently happens when these minor offenses are prosecuted?

AH: This is really important for your readers to understand: in most jurisdictions, when you’re arrested for a crime, that goes on to what is potentially a lifetime permanent criminal record maintained by the state criminal record agency, that potentially, depending on the state statutes, can show up to employers when they conduct a background check, and it can show up to law enforcement, police officers and prosecutors in the future. 

There’s really good evidence to suggest that [being prosecuted] changes people, the way you’re treated down the road, potentially, for a lifetime. What we’re studying are nonviolent misdemeanor arrests, which are, in most of the cases we study, later dismissed. What we’re finding is that defendants whose cases in which the prosecutors don’t prosecute them, they don’t receive a criminal record. And that seems to have a really beneficial effect.

DB: How did you, as the authors of the study, know for sure that it was leniency in prosecuting that had this effect? 

AA: What we were doing was a little different. We were taking advantage of the fact that in Suffolk County, the person who decides whether to charge you with a crime or not is basically randomly assigned to your case. You have no control over whether me, Jen or Anna is going to be the one that’s going to end up making a decision about whether to charge you or not. 

[For example], it turns out Jen is really lay-down-the-law. She’s really going to want to prosecute people. And Anna, Anna is super lenient, she really likes to give second chances, just kind of by nature. 

And so we’re using that luck of the draw, that some offenders happen to get Anna and others happen to get Jen. We try to understand what happens when you get Anna and you don’t get that criminal record. What is the effect on your future recidivism versus if you got that harsher prosecutor? 

DB: What kinds of offenses are we talking about?

AAThey’re all nonviolent misdemeanors like disturbing the peace, trespassing, some low-level kinds of theft or shoplifting, minor drug possession. There are also some more serious kinds of traffic or moving violations that move into the realm of criminality, rather than just citations or traffic tickets, that are going to kind of make up a majority of these nonviolent crimes that we’re talking about. 

AH: Misdemeanors are often things like driving with an expired registration, or driving with an expired license, driving with expired insurance — basically, driving without the right paperwork. Who doesn’t forget to renew stuff? 

AA:In a sense [this is] criminalizing poverty.  [Low-income folks] don’t have the time or resources to go and handle some of these problems.

As these researchers point out, once you’ve engaged with the criminal justice system it can be a slippery slope, so keeping folks out of it in the first place can have a huge knock-on effect. It prevents future crime.

AH: One of the things that we’re finding is that even though the cases that we’re studying are only these nonviolent misdemeanor offenses, when you prosecute a first-time nonviolent misdemeanor, offender, person, individual, they’re more likely to come back — not just on another non-violent misdemeanor offense, they’re more likely to come back on a violent offense and a felony offense. 

Charm City lives up to its name

In March 2020 in Baltimore, State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby tried a similar experiment initially prompted by the increased risk of Covid spreading in prisons. Her office would no longer prosecute a host of minor nonviolent charges: limited drug possession, prostitution, minor traffic infractions, misdemeanors and trespassing. This doesn’t mean all these things became legal, but it does mean that if you get arrested for them, you probably won’t be locked up. 

What happened? Well, no surprise, crime rates dropped suddenly. Which doesn’t mean folks stopped doing these things — only that they weren’t being prosecuted for them. But what’s interesting is that it wasn’t just those nonviolent crime rates that dropped. Violent crime dropped 20 percent too, and property crime dropped 36 percent. 39 percent fewer people overall got caught up in the criminal justice system, which is what you’d expect if some charges are not prosecuted. But, as in Suffolk County, it seems the reduction extended well beyond those nonviolent crimes. This also helps reduce discrimination, as it is mostly people of color who get caught up in the system. 

This past March, after the experiment proved to be successful, it was made permanent. When police realized these offenses were not being prosecuted they stopped arresting folks for them — for instance, there were 80 percent fewer arrests for drug possession. That allowed prosecutors to focus on violent crimes instead of these misdemeanors, which, according to some research, results in an increase in public safety. 

The cops were skeptical at first. The police commissioner expected crime to rise, but it continued to go down — even when it rose in many other big cities during the pandemic. Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore did a follow up study and found that of 1,431 folks who had charges dropped in this experiment only five ended up being arrested again, which is considered pretty incredible. 

Baltimore is now also following the example of the CAHOOTS program in Eugene, Oregon, previously written about here, by directing some calls about nonviolent incidents to the Baltimore Crisis Response, Inc., a behavioral health organization, rather than to the police. People in crisis get help from trained social workers instead of dealing with the police and risking the possibility of getting locked up. The police commissioner there has since come out in support of police not being expected to be social workers

It’s catching on

From NBC News: . . .

Continue reading. There’s more.

Written by Leisureguy

14 July 2021 at 12:40 pm

A good-news video for mushroom eaters

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Because I eat mushrooms frequently — multiple times a week — and because I often add two or three raw sliced domestic white mushrooms to a salad, I found this video a pleasure to watch. (I eat shiitake mushrooms only when cooked, BTW.)

Written by Leisureguy

14 July 2021 at 11:57 am

Dictator’s food preferences

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Perhaps this explains Donald Trump’s Big Mac obsession:

When dictators have been in power for years, when they’re tired of power, or scared of plots or attempts on their life, that’s the moment when they miss Mommy’s kitchen. They all go back to what they ate as children. That’s what surprised me most: That each of them had that moment. They started searching or asking for foods they used to eat as children, when they were safer.

That’s from an article in Atlas Obscura.

Written by Leisureguy

14 July 2021 at 10:43 am

Computerized pool cue

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This cue would be no match for Efren Reyes in a pocket billiards game like 8-ball or 9-ball, but I found the design and building — and debugging — of it very interesting and even recreational.

Written by Leisureguy

14 July 2021 at 9:56 am

The difference between sex and gender, and why both matter in health research

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Jacqueline (Jacquie) Gahagan (they/them), Professor in the Faculty of Health, Dalhousie University, writes in The Conversation:

The concepts of sex and gender continue to be used interchangeably despite international efforts to address this issue.

The term sex is generally used to refer to a binary of being either female or male as denoted by attributes that comprise biological sex. Gender, on the other hand, is meant to refer to the various socially constructed roles, behaviours, expressions and identities of girls, women, boys, men and gender-diverse people.

For example: Do you want to know if a new drug was tested and approved for safe and effective use with women? That is a “sex” question. Do you want to know why women make up the majority of long-term care workers and how this impacts their lives? That is a “gender” question.

Canada is seen as a world leader in sex- and gender-based analysis. However, there are still a variety of challenges in the actual application of this approach in health research. In practical terms, when health research does not include sex- and gender-based analysis, it can result in a lack of access to appropriate health information, diagnoses or care for all populations.

Canada’s longstanding commitment to sex- and gender-based analysis is noteworthy. However, this approach has yet to achieve widespread integration across federal departments and agencies.

Improving health programs for everyone

If sex- and gender-based analysis is truly aimed at advancing our understanding of the ways in which, for example, federal policies and programs are improving the health of women, men, boys, girls and gender-diverse populations, we need all federal departments and agencies to use this approach. However, as indicated by the Office of the Auditor General of Canada, only a fraction of federal departments and agencies that committed to measures such as the Action Plan on Gender-based Analysis have actually conducted gender-based analysis.

This lack of uptake matters because a sex- and gender-based analytical process can be used to determine how diverse groups of women, men, girls, boys and gender-diverse people are being differentially affected by federal initiatives.

It can be challenging to address or correct poorly developed policies after the fact by applying sex- and gender-based analysis after they’ve been rolled out or applied. The point is to ensure that inequalities are addressed at the outset of our health policy development processes, and not as an afterthought or add-on to satisfy departmental reporting requirements.

One of the stated goals of sex- and gender-based analysis is to help government decision-makers — including those in the health sector — identify sex and gender considerations, such as the participation and inclusion of diverse populations. To achieve that, these issues need to be incorporated from the very beginning, while programs and policies are in the developmental phase.

Implementing sex- and gender-based analysis

Tensions in implementing a sex- and gender-based analysis approach have been evident for a long time in the health sector. For example, in relation to “women’s” cancer screening and cancer registries, the ongoing invisibility of lesbian, bisexual and transgender populations overlooks the unique cancer diagnosis, treatment and care needs of gender-diverse populations.

In addition, cancer registries can benefit from sex- and gender-based analysis. These registries collect, store, manage and analyze data on people with cancer to help with cancer surveillance, as a resource for cancer researchers and to serve as the evidence base to inform public health programs and policies.

If cancer data are collected using . . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

14 July 2021 at 9:22 am

Relative popularity of car colors by year

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Written by Leisureguy

14 July 2021 at 9:13 am

Posted in Business, Daily life

Cedar this morning

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For quite a while I favored the Omega 20102, shown above, over the Omega 10048 (Pro 48), but I am swinging back toward the Pro 48. The 20102 is certainly a good brush, but the slightly greater loft of the 10048 provides for me a slightly better feel. So the Pro 48 goes on my desert island list, but not the 20102. I think for next week’s shaves I’ll pick six brushes that definitely make the desert island list. Stay tuned: you know one now, learn the rest next week.

The lather was excellent, and the 20102 has excellent capacity. Grooming Dept Cedarwood’s lather is abundant and feels like it’s doing good things to my skin — I noticed particularly in the final rinse and that it felt as though a skin lotion was on my face. This soap is made with his Nai formula, a vegan shaving soap. The list of ingredients explains the lotion-like feel:

Aloe Vera Juice, Stearic Acid, Potassium Hydroxide, Coconut Milk, Castor Oil, Cupuacu Butter, Mango Butter, Camelina Oil, Marshmallow Extract, Glycerine, Rice Bran Wax, Beta Sitosterol, Sunflower Lecithin, Jojoba Oil, Apricot Kernel Oil Oil, Kuki nut Oil, Larch Arabinogalactan, Tara Gum, Erythritol, Glucomannan (Konjac root), Sodium Lauroyl Lactylate, Propanediol, Sodium Lactate, Sodium Hydroxide, Squalane, Lauryl Laurate, Olive Oil Unsaponifiables, Betaine, Isostearic Acid, Sasha Inchi Oil, Meadofoam Oil, Allantoin, Argan Oil, Tucuma Butter, Ucuuba Butter, Sodium Lauroyl Oat Amino Acids, Oleic Acid, Linoleic Acid, Fragrance, Colloidal Oatmeal, Sucrose Cocoate, Sodium Gluconate, Calendula Extract, Ceramide 3, C12-15 alkyl benzoate, Liquorice Root Extract, Beta Glucan, Broccoli Seed Oil, Tamanu Oil, Hyaluronic Acid, Grape Seed Extract, Chamomile Extract, Sea Kelp Extract, Green Tea Extract, Alpha Bisabolol, Inositol, Histidine, Lysine, Arginine, Sodium PCA, Sodium Alginate, Aspen Bark Extract, Ginkgo Biloba Leaf extract, Phospholipids, Resveratrol, Caprylyl Glycol, Ethylhexylglycerin, Lonicera Caprifolium (Honeysuckle) flower extract and Lonicera Japonica (Honeysuckle) flower extract, Tetrasodium Glutamate Diacetate, Tocopherols.

One interesting thing is that the soap description includes a separate list of the fragrance ingredients:

Scent Ingredients: Orange EO, Grapefruit EO, Ginger Lily EO, Ginger EO, Pink Pepper EO, Geranium Absolute, Rose Absolute, Howood EO, Siam Wood EO, Benzoin Resin, Carrot Seed EO, Alaska Cedarwood EO, Hiba (Japanese Cedarwood) EO, Port Orford Cedarwood EO, Styrax, Muhuhu EO, Himalayan Cedarwood EO, Virginia Cedarwood EO. Texas Hill Country Cedarwood EO, Atlas Cedarwood Absolute. Vetiver Absolute, Patchouli EO, Vanilla Co2 extract, Tonka Bean Absolute.

Maggard Razors V2OC is remarkable similar to the Parker 24/26, and it is an excellent razor head, comfortable and efficient. It’s mounted here on a Maggard Razors handle, and it did an excellent job: perfectly smooth finish with no hint of a threat to nick.

A good splash of Anthony Gold’s Red Cedar aftershave, and the middle of the week is here already.

Written by Leisureguy

14 July 2021 at 9:09 am

Posted in Shaving

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